Sharing the experience of the 1st Summer Course for Priests 2005
The first course of priestly renewal that was held in Jerusalem concluded on August 2nd with a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. It was organized by the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, the Vatican Congregation for the Priesthood and the Sacerdos Institute of the Pontifical Atheneum ‘Regina Apostolorum’. The course began on 15th July with the participation of 39 priests from 16 different countries and successfully completed all of its original objectives. It was a time of intense prayer, study and pastoral acquaintance with the region.
The course started with a session of spiritual exercises, which was followed by a twelve day seminar on the Holy Land given by Professors from the Pontifical Athenaeum ‘Regina Apostolorum’ of Rome. They were constantly assisted by a team of translators and a ‘Master of Ceremonies’ for the liturgical celebrations.
The present-day reality of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land was presented by a number of outstanding figures, including the Latin Patriarch, Msgr. Michel Sabbah, the Apostolic Delegate, Msgr. PietroSambi, and the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. PierbattistaPizzaballa, O.F.M.
The daily program of the course consisted of Eucharistic concelebration, Adoration of the Holy Sacrament and communal assembly for Lauds and Vespers. Two conference sessions were held every day, one with an academic approach and the other more spiritual. In addition, there were daily visits to Holy Sites, guided and illuminated by Archaeologists, Professors of Holy Scripture and other experts. According to a prearranged schedule, Notre Dame offered participants the opportunity of celebrating every day at one of these sites: the Holy Sepulcher, Calvary, the “Cenacolino”, “Ecce Homo” and Gethsemane. Opportunities were provided also for those who, at their own initiative, wished to celebrate at other places in Jerusalem, such as “Dominus Flevit”, St. Peter in Gallicantu or the Dormition of the Virgin. In Nazareth, Bethlehem and at Tabgha, the participants concelebrated as a group. They also managed to find time for prayer Vigil at the Holy Sepulcher, and for contemplation before the Eucharist at Gethsemane.
Every day after supper, in one of Notre Dame’s spacious terraces, the priests used to meet and recount their experiences. These impromptu and lively meetings created a warm and convivial atmosphere that was very enriching for all the members of the course: there were recollections of priestly vocation, accounts of pastoral experiences and discussion of the challenges confronting parish priests.
Although Sundays were free days, the participants were invited by local parish priests to visit Catholic communities in the Holy Land. After concelebrating Mass, they stayed with the families and heard about their daily struggle to live and defend the faith, in a region where Christians constitute only about 2% of the population.
At the end of the course each priest received a certificate acknowledging his participation, as well as a stole with the cosmic Terra Sancta cross and a copy of the Tabgha mosaic of loaves and fish embroidered by hand, emphasizing the priestly and Eucharistic character of the course.
With this course of priestly renewal in Jerusalem, the Legionaries of Christ put into practice the second article of their constitution, as well as the following statement of their founder: “The priest, in the broadest and most profound sense, is nothing but the reproduction of Christ himself. The substance of his mission literally comes down to the salvation of souls and the glorification of the Father” (29th March 1956).